Tag Archives: Family Land Conservation

Donation of 50 Acres Near Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

Mass Audubon has received a generous donation of a 50-acre property on the former Grass Hill Road in Whately, near the Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary.  It is a forest habitat type known as hemlock-hardwood-pine. White pine and eastern hemlock are predominant with hardwoods such as red oak and ash mixed in. 

This property abuts private lands on its northern and western boundaries that are protected through Conservation Restrictions held by the Hilltown Land Trust.  In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game has a Wildlife Management Area off the northeastern corner, and the City of Northampton owns watershed lands further north and east of the land.

The donors owned this land for 60 years.  It was originally part of a much larger land holding of the Graves family after which the Wildlife Sanctuary is named.  Thaddeus Graves conveyed this particular parcel to the New England Box Company, which owned it from 1909 to 1955

Historically, the property was used primarily for timber, but it has not been logged in the past 20 years.  Signs of bear and moose were found during a recent walk.  These 50 acres add significantly to the connection between protected lands in the area thereby preserving the integrity of the natural landscape.  This in turn assists wildlife movement—a critical need in the age of habitat-altering climate change.  A walk in these woods provides a sense of awe at the resilience of nature, and the peace of the natural world.

-Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

New Hampshire Couple Donate Land in Princeton

Scott and Gladys Olson generously donated their 4.9-acre property in Princeton, to have it become part of the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. While modest in size, the parcel situated at the intersection of Gates and Goodnow roads near Wachusett Meadow’s western boundary represents a significant addition to the 1,100-acre wildlife sanctuary.  

Benefits for People and Nature

A section of the Midstate Trail, a popular long-distance hiking path stretching from Rhode Island to New Hampshire, passes right alongside the newly-protected parcel and also links to the sanctuary’s network of trails. These additional acres help preserve the integrity of the natural landscape, and secure a larger area for wildlife movement—a critical need as our climate changes.

A Family’s Generosity

Scott and his family have owned this land for almost 40 years.  Scott grew up in Holden, attended Wachusett Regional High School, and ended up living in Princeton.  He and Gladys reside in New Hampshire now and decided the best thing for the land would be to donate it to Mass Audubon. 

On behalf of his family, Scott wrote, “I have a trove of wonderful memories of my life in Princeton, particularly time spent walking in the sanctuary at all times of day in all seasons of the year…I took my forty-one year old son on his first hike down our dirt road into the sanctuary when he was six days old. It gives me profound satisfaction to know that the land will be conserved in perpetuity for others to share.”

The generosity of the Olsons is a lasting legacy to people, wildlife and the nature of Massachusetts.

by Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

Another Piece of the Puzzle Conserved in Holliston

On April 22, 2019 a new Conservation Restriction (CR) was acquired in a joint effort between the New England Forestry Foundation, Mass Audubon, and the Poitras Family (longtime conservationists and supporters of Mass Audubon).  The property includes 60 acres of lovely fields and woodlands along Highland Street.

Mass Audubon has been busy in Holliston over the past few years.  It is all part of a long term effort to knit together a large natural landscape for the benefit of Holliston and neighboring communities. 

Altogether, Mass Audubon has played a role in protecting over 360 acres in Holliston since 2005.  This CR furthers the connection to hundreds of acres of existing protected land.  The mosaic of connected, protected lands will facilitate wildlife movement and increase nature’s resilience to the impacts of climate change, in addition to providing cleaner air and drinking water for these MetroWest communities in the years ahead.  A large portion of this land will eventually become a new Mass Audubon property called Broad Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

A mossy stone wall on the recently protected 60-acre Poitras property

The People Making It Possible

It is hard to talk about our work in Holliston without mentioning the Poitras Family.  Without them, this work would not have been possible.

The Poitras family are the ones who first envisioned the protection of this historic and scenic section of Holliston. Largely with their own resources, they have gradually been purchasing land and then donating CRs on that land to Mass Audubon and the New England Forestry Foundation.

It is difficult to find better supporters of land conservation anywhere.

A Team Effort

We also need to give credit to the New England Forestry Foundation for all their help in making this work possible. 

In the conservation community, it’s important to remember that we all think of ourselves as “playing on the same team” with many other talented, dedicated “players”.  So much more conservation gets done when we work together.

New England Forestry Foundation has been working with Mass Audubon in Holliston for quite some time, and we are grateful to have them as our partner.

by Nick Rossi, Land Protection Specialist

Donation Fills a Gap

The Fischer family has generously donated their 3-acre property in Sandisfield, along the western side of Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, to Mass Audubon. 

Steve, Douglas, Cynthia, and Janet Fischer are part of an extended family, the Johnsons, who have owned this land for almost 100 years.  This parcel in Sandisfield was originally part of a larger land holding that the Johnson family purchased in 1922.

The Johnsons lived in Connecticut and used this property primarily for logging.  According to the Sandisfield Times (Dec. 2014): “Alvin Johnson, a Swedish immigrant then living in the New Haven area, acquired from Edmund Strickland two sprawling former farms on Beech Plain Road.”  The Johnsons added two small cottages across the street from each other—one in 1924 and the other in 1930.   

The donated land is located on the easterly side of Beech Plain Road and fills a gap in the protection of the wildlife sanctuary (as shown in the map below).  

Douglas Fischer wrote,

“The land holds so many memories for my mother, Eleanor Viola Johnson Fischer. She lived in the two-story white farm house across and down the street from the land we donated…Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a lumberman. In the histories of the area, their home is sometimes referred to as The Strickland Farm. It was built in 1785 and was a stopover for the Underground Railroad. She remembers going to school at The Little Red School House, harvesting blueberries, caring for their two dairy cows and playing with her older sister Evelyn. This donated piece of land was a gift to her and Evelyn from their father. It was passed on to myself and my brother, Steve. As we live in the Midwest we are unable to use it and are delighted that it will be preserved. We trust that under Mass Audubon’s stewardship many future generations of birds and animals will enjoy the same wild blueberries and protected environment that brought joy to our mother’s heart.”